June 8, 2014

Another Triple Crown Bust.

Well, that sucked.  I think yesterday I probably looked like the human version of air being let out of a balloon.  Good race, I will say, but not the outcome I wanted nor hoped for.  California Chrome looked so calm before the race, and got off to a good start.  There were moments he got into a crappy position in the pack, but he'd manage to reposition himself.  But he just didn't seem to have The Juice.  He didn't have that spark I saw in the last two races.  I felt like I was watching the race in slow motion, and it was excruciating.  I was full of adrenaline and screaming to California Chrome, "Turn it on!  Turn it on now!", because I could see early on the mojo was missing, despite him staying with the pack and in the top 4 until the end.  By the final turn, I knew what was coming.  Still, I wanted to believe, but my screams took on a desperate tone.  "Come on, do this.  Please do this".  I had tears in my eyes during the stretch.  Late last night after I returned home, I read online that California Chrome was found to have a crack in his hoof, which I immediately realized is why he looked to be running fine, but lacked that look in his eye like he needed to bolt.  Because he couldn't, and he knew it.  The fact that he ran that race as well as he did with that injury makes me wonder what could've been had he not had the condition.  Oh well, moot point I suppose.

If you continued watching the coverage after the race, they interviewed California Chrome's owner, who went on an irate rant about the set up of the Triple Crown races.  He was MAD and loud and raising his hands.  The interviewer appeared shocked like the rest of us, and seemed to cut the interview short.  Many this morning are crying sour grapes and criticizing him for his outburst.  Perhaps he could've handled it a bit better, but I have to say, I tend to agree with everything he said.  When I was a kid, I remember very early on wondering why I was seeing different horses in the Preakness and the Belmont who were not in the Derby.  To me, even back then, it seemed all 3 races should have all of the same horses.  Although I didn't dwell on it, all my life that thought has stuck with me.  It just felt unfair that the Triple Crown contender had to compete with fresh horses running in the latter two races. 

With that being said, I just accepted it.  I mean, who am I going to question?  Plus, I never really heard others talking about this, so I often assumed my thoughts on the subject were biased because of my issues with fairness in general (I'm overly sensitive about it, I admit).  I just accepted that the system is how it is, even if it didn't make total sense to me.  On the flip side, I also reminded myself that the current set up is one of the big reasons why the Triple Crown is so hard to achieve.  I also questioned if changing the set up to instill fairness would invalidate the achievement in some way.  Would changing things mean it becomes a little too easy to win the Triple Crown?  That would certainly take away some of its magic.  Bottom line:  I have mixed feelings about it.  A change in the set up might make the playing field more even and fair, but in the end, is it fair to all the other horses/trainers/owners from the past?  Is it fair to the tradition?  Because I'm huge on tradition and that doesn't set well with me either. 

I don't know what the answer is, but I, for one, support the owner's rant last night.  I think he has giant balls to do what he did, what I'm sure other owners have felt before but wouldn't dare say out loud, much less to a national television audience.  I knew, as it was happening, that this would be the start of a debate in the sport of racing, and based on what I'm seeing online today, I was correct.  I'm happy about that.  Even if nothing changes, I think it's right to have the discussion.  In reading a few articles this morning, I learned some very interesting new facts.  Only 3 of the 11 Triple Crown winners in history were won in the current format.  Apparently there were many years that the Preakness was run before Derby, and others when the Belmont was run before the Preakness.  The latter, in particular, could be very impactful seeing as the Belmont is significantly longer than the other races and therefore is much more difficult to run last.  In addition, I read that horses today are not raced as they were in, say, the 70s, and they have less long distance races.  This means the horses themselves are not as sturdy as they used to be, and poses the question whether the current format is compatible with the racehorses of today.  Learning this new info makes me feel stronger for the argument to change the format, although I'm still torn.  Former owners/trainers of some of the greats, such as Affirmed, are understandably vehemently opposed to any changes.  I respect that.  It will be very interesting to see where all this goes.


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